The Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) in close collaboration with the Ethiopian Country Office of World Health Organization (WHO-Ethiopia) hosted an Inter-Country Coordination Meeting of Cross-Border Pastoral Project on Using innovative digital solutions for improving Access to Health Care Services and Nutrition Information in Cross-Border Pastoral Communities.
With a financial assistance from Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), WHO-Ethiopia, starting from May 2021 is implimenting a pastoral regional project geared towards vulnerable groups seeking health care across borders, utilizing innovative technology to supplement conventional health service delivery and ensuring continuity of health care.
The pilot initiative that currently focuses on Ethiopia and Somalia has the potential for expansion to additional regions and nations and is believed to significantly contribute in attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, namely SDGs 2, 3 and 17 and to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
According to research findings, conventional type of health service delivery is not adequate to reach pastoralist community and recommends innovative type of service delivery to reach the unreached. Evidence also indicates that digital solutions could potentially facilitate access to nutrition and improved health care services.
The consultative meeting is aimed at assessing the scope and status of the WHO initiated cross border nutrition project as well as strengthening the coordination and collaboration between the Health Ministries of the two countries and their respective partners.
Opening the meeting Maternal, Child&Nutrition Directorate Director with FMoH, Dr. Meseret Zelalem said the “Horn of Africa is among potential areas for development; however, it has been known for high maternal and child mortality and affected with prolonged drought resulting in high malnutrition”
According to Dr. Meseret pastoralists contributes to higher portion of the population of the region and “ensuring context specific enabling environment in the health system is important to address the health needs of this community while in country or across borders.
Digital solution on the modern era has contributed a lot in improving the health system and improving service delivery and information for decision the Director Emphasized.
Speaking on Behalf of the WCO Ethiopia Deputy Representative WCO-Ethiopia Nutrition Technical Officer Dr. Lanyero, Betty said “the pastoralist community despite making up a sizeable portion of the population and contributing significantly to the economies of these countries, has a below the average key health indicators which is characterized by low rates of fully immunized children, inadequate postpartum care, and low rates of facility delivery among others.
“Climatic shocks; drought and floods have impacted livelihoods and health of pastoralists in the Horn of Africa countries resulting into alarming level of food insecurity and child malnutrition. Furthermore, the existing health system’s weakness and the poor integration of cross-border services with community mobility hinder access to health care, Dr. Betty Added.
The consultative meeting that is held in Addis Ababa on 15th December, 2022 was attended by senior officials and experts from Health Ministries of Ethiopia and Somalia as well as representatives from donor, partners and key stakeholders.
Malnutrition is an outcome of interrelated, complex, basic, underlying and immediate causes. Different studies in pastoralist areas in Ethiopia revealed that child and maternal malnutrition which includes both macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies remains a significant public health problem for communities in those regions.
Recent EDHS data show that pastoral communities in Ethiopia experience not only the highest child micronutrient deficiencies such as anemia but also the highest prevalence of wasting. According to the 2019 Mini-EDHS report, the highest prevalence is observed in Somali (21%) and Afar (14%). The three primary livelihood systems of Somalia—pastoral and agro-pastoral, ; all depend on sufficient precipitation. These systems are extremely susceptible to shocks, such as drought, floods, successive seasons of insufficient rain, and inflation, given the 20 years of violence. These directly affect the population’s food security and nutritional status. Resulting in high Global Acute Malnutrition rates (GAM) in most regions of Somalia. Preventing and managing acute malnutrition in pastoral communities of horn Africa likely to have a very significant impact on child health as it in turn prevents the development of severe acute malnutrition, reduces morbidity and mortality and improves mental and physical development.
Visible differences in maternal and child health care services exist among regions and within regions. Disparity in key health outcomes is mainly due to lack of approaches to service delivery which leads to limited health service access and utilization, sparse settlement, migratory population, lack of infrastructure, seasonal movement of pastoralist community and inadequate, misdistribution and high turnover of service providers at all level which affected the health service delivery.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Ethiopia.